February 09, 2021

Computing Takes a Quantum Leap Forward

If you think quantum computers have become faster in recent years, they’re about to take a huge leap forward in processing power, thanks to scientists at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The research team, which partnered up with tech giant Microsoft, developed a cryogenic computer chip that can handle thousands of qubits – the information of the quantum computers – instead of the current limit of dozens.

Instead of ones and zeros, qubits act as both to allow the super-powered processors to compute at an exponential rate that is faster than regular computers.

On 2 February, Professor David Reilly, co-inventor of the chip, mentioned in a joint statement how important it is for quantum computing to “operate thousands, if not millions of qubits”.

He explained: “The world’s biggest quantum computers currently operate with just 50 or so qubits. This small scale is partly because of limits to the physical architecture that control the qubits.”

These processors need to be kept unbelievably cold: about -273.05 degrees Celsius, or absolute zero. Heat causes errors, so the cold helps prevent miscalculations and allows for safe data transfers.

Another problem is that the data is usually transferred via many, many cables which take up too much space.

Dr Kushal Das, joint inventor of the chip, said: “[The chip] does away with all those cables. With just two wires carrying information as input, it can generate control signals for thousands of qubits.”

The technology needs fine-tuning, but otherwise provides a breakthrough for researchers held back by the input-output bottleneck.